An open letter to the college student thinking about giving up—
Have you ever told yourself one of these things?
“It’s too hard.”
“Everyone’s smarter than I am.”
“Choosing this major was a mistake.”
We’ve all heard them, even said them to ourselves. As college students, we often use every excuse in the book to tell others why we’ve decided to give up on our degree. After all, real life is somewhere out there, and we’d rather test our abilities than spend more down time learning more about what we could do in this open letter. However, while the above may be true, these general comments are only surface glances at what may really be going on inside of you.
1. Try these on for size. They might fit a little better:
Instead of “it’s too hard,” what you may really be saying is “I’m so scared of messing up that nothing makes sense.” Instead of “everyone’s smarter than I am,” it’s “I am not good enough at what I do to ever be taken seriously in my field.” And—in my opinion, one of the hardest—instead of “choosing this major was a mistake, it’s “my teachers/family/peers are telling me that I could have been smarter about my life choices, and now I’m going to fail at life.”
2. A lot more cutting, right? Why is that?
You see, it’s not just the face we put on our fears that makes us want to get up. It’s something that goes a lot deeper—something that wrenches our hearts and rots our core, our resolve, and our identity. It’s that gut-wrenching intuition that tells us that we may have done something terribly wrong, wasted time, or not reached out for better opportunities that best benefit us.
3. That makes us terrified. Petrified, actually.
And then what happens? You might have opened up to someone very close to you about your fears only to hear them tell you with disgust, “Oh, stop thinking about yourself. Lots of people have gone through this and come out all right. You will, too.”
I’m sure they meant nothing but the best for you when they said that. And, really, they’re not wrong. But let me offer you a new perspective: how can we stop thinking about ourselves? Not in a self-centered way, but really think about this one: you are the closest person to you. You have to live with you for the rest of your life. Other people don’t.
And that is why I’m writing this open letter to you, the college student who is thinking about giving up on your degree. Regardless of what you may be thinking now, there is worth in what you are doing. Nothing worth doing ever comes easily. And nothing—absolutely nothing—is worthless if it adds to the person you are.
So, for a minute, I want you to stop lying to yourself. Yes, you heard me right. If you are thinking about giving up, you are giving up on yourself—and in doing so, you have become your own worst enemy.
Maybe you’ve read everything I had to say to you in this open letter, and you’re still thinking, “Nope, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to give up on my degree. It’s not going to hurt me, and I know exactly what I’m going to do.” If that’s the case, I’m going to offer you one more perspective. That is to think about someone else when you make your decision to stick with your degree instead of giving up.
Someone—somewhere, sometime—will need your story. In the future, you will have this person come up to you who is experiencing the same struggles that you are now, and you will tell them that you faced the same thing at one time in your life. And then they will ask you what you did about it.
4. What if the only thing you can tell them is “well, I didn’t want to face it—so I just gave up”?
Are you starting to see how this works? One person’s life affects so many others. This isn’t just about a degree. You can get a job without a degree. You can live life without a degree. But you make life a whole lot harder when you have to live with the fact that you gave up on something that you started.
Even if you can’t see it now, and even if you can’t finish your degree for yourself, someone needs your story. If that doesn’t change your mind, nothing will.
And those three lies I mentioned before that college students tell themselves to convince themselves that giving up is all right? Well, I’m going to shut them down for you right now:
“I’m so scared of messing up that nothing makes sense.” No—you fight for what you want, and you acknowledge that mistakes are a part of learning. Once you make a mistake, you learn, and you will never make the same mistake twice.
“I am not good enough at what I do to ever be taken seriously in my field.” Wrong—you find your joy in doing your job the very best you can. This may not be someone else’s best—but it is yours, and you own it. You take your work seriously, and for that, you will earn respect. You understand that respect that is cheaply given is not worth much, and you want something more lasting than that.
“My teachers/family/peers are telling me that I could have been smarter about my life choices, and now I’m going to fail at life.” So what?—you know that you were created for a purpose in life. You may not know what that exact purpose is, or to what end it will lead. But you know that you have been given a passion for a reason. If you give up on what you believe now, the course of your life will change drastically, and you may never know what you could have had. You listen to truth and not shutdowns.
If there are more lies like these that you are telling yourself, write them down. Then write what they actually mean. And then write down the truth in an open letter.
5. And then what?
You stand up, you move on, and you finish strong. Learn to thrive where you are and as you are.
And remember that as long as you are alive on this earth, these four or more years and your degree(s) do not define you. They can mold who you are and what you will become—but in the end, it is what you do. It is not who you are. There is a wide world out there. Don’t let the present struggles beat you down.
From another college student walking in your shoes.